Leading a country doesn't just bring a few unwanted gray hairs. The stressful gig also takes years off a person's life, according to a new study in the journal BMJ. Research in this area has been conflicting: A previous study found no adverse effects on life expectancy, another showed US presidents aged twice as quickly as the average American, while a third found American presidents actually lived longer. This latest study, however, is "the largest statistical study of its kind, examining elections held in 17 countries from 1722 to 2015," reports the New York Times. Researchers identified the number of years 279 elected heads of government and the 261 men and women they defeated lived after participating in their last election and found leaders lived 2.7 fewer years and had a 23% greater risk of premature death than the candidates they beat out.
In the US, presidents lived an average of 12 years after their last election, compared to 19 years for runners-up, per Reuters, though adjusting for age narrowed that seven-year gap by 1.3 years. "Greater responsibility and [the] stress of the job" could be to blame, study author Anupam Jena explains. "Certain hormones like cortisol may be elevated, which in turn accelerate diseases such as cardiovascular disease." He adds leaders "probably felt national priorities were much more pressing than eating right and exercising," per the Telegraph. An author of an earlier study on the topic identifies one issue with Jena's study, though. It includes "causes of death that were unrelated to aging, such as being at the wrong end of a gun," which may shape results. (Want to live longer? Try this.)